A visit to a garden or show is my favourite way of seeking fresh inspiration for my plot and going on holiday means there are opportunities to explore even further afield. Finding a new garden is always a highlight of time I spend away from home.
Last year I discovered the delights of the National Botanic Garden of Wales, near Carmarthen. This is a relatively new garden which has taken the opportunity to present its plant collections quite differently to other botanic gardens in the UK. Its crowning glory is the Great Glasshouse, which has the largest span in the world.
Designed by Lord Norman Foster and Partners, it showcases plants – many of them endangered – from California, Australia, the Canary Islands, Chile, South Africa and the Mediterranean Basin i.e. regions that enjoy a Mediterranean climate. Not only is it a dazzling display of plants, the scents instantly transported me back to many a holiday taken in the Mediterranean and Australia.
Staying in the UK, no holiday in Cornwall is complete without a trip to the Eden Project. Carved out of an old china clay quarry its biomes showcase plants of economic benefit from around the world as well as demonstrating how plants help to provide our water and air. A programme of innovative and fun events ensures there’s something for all the family to enjoy. I can’t wait to try England’s longest zip wire and get a completely different view of those biomes!
If you have RHS or National Trust membership, then don’t forget that either gives access to dozens of gardens around the country. There’s bound to be at least one great garden close to your chosen destination. The RHS has also partner gardens in Belgium, France, Italy and the USA.
If your thoughts do turn to abroad, then France has plenty of potential. For instance, many of the Loire Châteaux are in beautiful settings, worth exploring for their gardens as well as their famous architecture. In addition, the annual garden festival at Château de Chaumont has around 30 small gardens bursting with ideas and inspiration, which are designed to have plenty of interest until the festival’s closure on 2nd November.
Another garden of note in the area is Château du Rivau, which is a fairytale garden designated as a Jardin Remarquable by the French authorities. Rose lovers can get lost in the hundreds of David Austin roses; fun lovers can get lost in the maze or play hide and seek amongst the contemporary sculpture.
If your summer includes a trip to see family or friends down under, then a stopover in Singapore is a must to visit Gardens by the Bay. This incredible garden was designed by Grant Associates in Bath, who had to overcome the challenge of designing a glasshouse to display temperate plants in a tropical climate. It means the glasshouse condensation is usually found on the outside rather than the more usual inside.
Another spectacular feature is the Supertree Grove. This is a number of vertical gardens of 25 to 50 metres in height, designed to provide shade in the day which are then lit up at night. There is a vertical walkway between some of the ‘trees’ which gives a completely different view of the gardens below.
This is just a small sample of the possibilities for including gardens in your summer holiday plans. If your favourite is missing, then do let me know in the comments below.
Don’t forget, if you’re planning to visit the RHS shows at Hampton Court or Tatton Park, then do visit the Gabriel Ash stand and say hello. They’ll be very happy to see you!